Thursday, March 28, 2013


This is a reflection I wrote and shared on here last year. In a sentence, I'm a mother in need of the forgiveness and grace found only at the cross of my Savior. 

My dream is that when Jake and Joshua and Ella Grace are grown, they’ll look back on their early years with me and be able to describe a Mom who raised them with gentleness, kindness, forbearance, patience and self-control.

And yet far too often my response to my kids, whether it be to their somewhat aggravating but innocent silliness, or at other times their sin, is to be impatient, angry, unkind.

This is not always the way. Some days I receive such abundant mercy, and words of grace and joy characterize my conversations with them. I gracefully nurture, and it comes almost naturally. Our home has peace, and laughter. These are such wonderful days.

But then there are the other days, the ones where I wake up sleep-deprived, already impatient, on the edge, angry words controlling my speech before we even start breakfast. I know from talking with other moms that this is not a unique experience. There are days where we hear ourselves speak, we see ourselves parent, and it’s graceless, joyless, severe.

I had a morning like that a few days back…

There is finally quiet in the kids bedroom as all three settle in for their afternoon rest. I walk back downstairs with some messes to clean up: messes left by the boys, messes left by daily routines, but mostly just messes left by my own sin. In the first few minutes of afternoon down time, I almost always tackle the physical messes first. Every mother knows this is the most practical approach. Starting the post-nap part of the day seems extra chaotic if you haven’t yet cleaned up from the morning.

But often, when this pattern is followed, there simply isn’t time left to clean up the messes that matter infinitely more: messes left by sin, like the broken commitments to love my children with patience, kindness, gentleness; messes like a mother’s heart that is aching with the question of whether the impatience and harshness that I’ve shown my kids today might be that tipping point in their little lives, that moment where they’re more shaped by my sin than by my love.

The ache is made worse because children have such a deep capacity to overlook sin, to forgive, to pardon. “C’mon!” I almost feel like saying, “Be mad at me, my sons! Be rude and impatient back!” But no, Josh’s chubby hands pat my tear-stained face, his eyes meet my own and all I see is tenderness and love, and the desire to please. Kids know how to love, don't they?

So for this day at least, for a few minutes, I’m going to pause, leaving the TinkerToys and Thomas Trains strewn across the living room carpet, and I'm going to kneel at the place where mercy and forgiveness flow, the place where my sin is made no more.

My God has been here with me, behind me and before me, restraining me from worse sin I have no doubt, and yet even though my morning has been in plain view of my God, I still share it with Him:

“My Heavenly Father, there are so many moments from this morning that I long to redo: moments where I could have responded with gentle firmness, moments where I could have directed young hearts with humility, with understanding. There are so many moments where I could have been slow to anger and abounding in love, parenting Jake and Josh the way you, my God, parent me. Help me to count my days, to sense that they're passing. Sometimes these toddler years seem like they’ll last forever, but I know how quickly they’re actually passing by. And I know that it is the ordinary moments that are going to shape my three little ones more than anything else. This is why I ache, my Father. What if the graceless words of anger that I spoke today will leave scars, will leave an indelible mark on their tiny hearts? My God, would you forgive my sin? Would you provide strength where there is only weakness. Would you somehow give me hope even though I see so much past failure? Father, would you lift this burden of sorrow and replace it with… Christ?”

The impossible wish to redo the past couple hours, along with the near certainty that I will sin in the same way again. But here’s where even in the ugliness of it all, grace abounds. Strong, living, hopeful grace. It’s the grace found at the foot of a cross, where a sinless Saviour died, bearing the punishment for my sin. What indescribable hope is found in this truth:

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. ~ II Corinthians 5:21

I hear the boys' bedroom door creak open, the pitter patter of small feet coming down the stairs. Josh appears first. Shirt off. Face flushed rosy and lined from sleep, hair a little damp and curly from napping under his beloved brown blanket. Eyes bright, happy to see me. Jake walks down a moment later. A little grumpy, brow furrowed indicating his usual adorable, grouchy, freshly-woken self. I stretch out my arms to these two little men of mine.

“Come here, you two. I need to talk to you guys.” They’ve heard this before. “Did you have a good nap?” They settle into my arms. “Boys, I am so sorry that I was unkind and rude to you guys this morning. Mommy has sinned against you. I am sorry. My sin, boys, this is why I need Jesus so badly. Do you know that because I believe in Jesus, when God looks at me, He doesn’t remember my sin. Because of Jesus, God has taken my sin and thrown it so far away! Jesus died on the cross so that sinners like Mommy - and you boys know I’m a sinner, you see me sin against you all the time! – so that sinners like Mommy could be forgiven. Jake, Josh, would you guys please forgive me?”

And so from something ugly emerges something hopeful. Words I’ve spoken to my little ones, words of destruction, of sin, of death, give way to words of grace, of forgiveness, of life. Maybe my kids won’t be able to look back upon a childhood where their Mama was always kind, gentle, patient. But this I know: they will be able to look back on childhood and see a mother who desperately needed Jesus.

I wish that all of my days as a Mom were characterized by gentleness and peace. But the irony is that these other days, the days like today where sin abounds, I give thanks for these days too. My sin brings me to the foot of the cross like nothing else in life can. And the cross brings me face to face with a most gentle, patient, infinitely loving Saviour.

Friday, March 22, 2013


Sometimes we’re given a picture of one part of our faith and it's painted in fresh, vivid strokes. Of course it's worth saying that our Christian faith can never be made more real than when we simply open our Bibles and hear His words, His voice.

A heart made new in Jesus will rightly ache when the prophetic words of Isaiah are heard.
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.~Isaiah 53:5 
A mind renewed will neither seek nor find a more compelling description of the sacrificial lamb than what has already been described in His word, written and preserved for His people.
Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.~John 1:29
Every detail of redemptive history and the Christian faith has been written and recorded in glorious, detailed perfection.

But within this paradigm of what is complete and closed, once in a while God brings us through an experience that allows His truth to be seen in new and vibrant color. Recently Justin and I lived through an experience such as this. Our boy, our middle child, our rambunctious, adorable 3-year-old son hit the corner of a bookshelf square in the face. His forehead split open and blood poured, coloring his face bright, wet red within moments. Not long after, I lay beside my boy on a hospital bed, holding his hand, talking to him about his favorite movies and treats and all the yummy chocolate I planned to purchase for him the next day while Justin stood beside us, watching, grimacing, as the skilled hands of a doctor stitched up our son’s face.

I lay on that hospital bed with my precious little guy, his face covered in by-now-dried blood, his chubby hand tightly gripping my own, and even as my heart stayed with the son in my arms, my eyes filled and emptied as I thought of Another. I wouldn’t do it. Not a chance that I would do that, what He did. I wouldn’t sacrifice my little Joshua for anyone, not even someone I loved deeply.

There may be complexities of my triune God that I don’t fully grasp, but this much I know: a compassionate and perfectly loving God the Father gave up His beloved and only Son to be despised, rejected, beaten, scorned, ridiculed, pierced, nailed, hung, killed, forsaken.

God did this for enemies. God did this for me. Such love.

In His grace, He sometimes takes us down paths where our experience, the good ones and painful ones alike, confirm His revelation in fresh ways. Something in life suddenly happens--like a beloved child’s face is gouged and gushing blood and in our state of fearful prayer we feel that familiar parental ache and desire to protect and do everything in our power to keep our little one safe and whole--and suddenly with clarified sight we behold just a little more clearly the beauty, goodness and sacrificial love of God the Father.

We return to scripture and read, and listen, and the color of Christ's blood is suddenly and accurately a more painful and scarlet and vivid red.

Monday, March 18, 2013


Animal videos typically don’t make me cry. I may find them cute or sweet or even majestic, but they rarely prompt an emotional response. Last night that changed. Justin and I watched this short animal video that stirred my heart and, in the concluding moments, brought tears.

There are these lions, majestic, ferocious as they stalk their prey. There are these buffalo, a herd of them, with one little innocent baby at a mother’s side. Captured on this amateur video is the surreal unfolding of events when these two animal families meet.

The calf, the weakest, the smallest of the herd is the choice prey. And though the lions are regal and powerful and inspire awe in their own right, there is this instinctive anger that wells up to see them attack the most helpless of their prey. But of course why wouldn’t they? They are predators with an instinct to capture and kill.

As this animal kingdom story unfolds, the baby buffalo is injured, seemingly doomed, surrounded by lions ready to finish what they began, when the herd of buffalo return to their little one to try to save it. The voices of the onlookers are heard on the video saying, “It’s too late. I can’t believe they’ve come back, but it’s too late to save it.”

But it wasn’t too late. Following their protective instinct, there is this demonstration of loyalty and perseverance as the buffalo herd returns for the trapped, helpless little one. Even as the predators surround the baby, the herd surrounds these lions. The buffalo use the weapons they have-- their size, their strength, their horns, their instinctive determination-- and as a herd, as a family, they rescue the one for whom they returned.

As the video concludes my thoughts travel to a conversation I recently had with two dear friends. We had been talking about the people in our lives who we love deeply who, as far as we know, don’t have faith in Christ. My friends and I, we talked and shared how so often, even as we truly love and care deeply, we simply don’t have a persistence or earnestness in prayer for our lost loved ones. We wondered why this is. Do we not sense urgency? Do we not see the predator, like a roaring lion waiting to devour? Have we lost hope? Do we think it’s too late?

That night as we talked, I shared with my friends a story of persistence in prayer that is one of Justin’s often recounted stories from church history about George Muller, a man know for his prayer life.

The following are Muller's words:
In November, 1844, I began to pray for the conversion of five individuals. I prayed every day without a single intermission, whether sick or in health, on the land or on the sea, and whatever the pressure of my engagements might be. 
Eighteen months elapsed before the first was converted. I thanked God and prayed on for the others. Five years elapsed, and then the second was converted. I thanked God for the second, and prayed on for the other three. Day by day I continued to pray for them, and six years passed before the third was converted. I thanked God for the three and went on praying for the other two. 
These two remained unconverted. 
"The man to whom God in the riches of his grace has given tens of thousands of answers to prayer in the self-same hour or day in which they were offered has been praying day by day for nearly 36 years for the conversion of these individuals, and yet they remain unconverted. But I hope in God, I pray on, and look yet for the answer. They are not converted yet, but they will be."
The writer of Muller’s biography, Basil Miller, concludes this story with these words.
Those prayers? You ask. In 1897, those two men, sons of a friend of Mr. Muller’s youth, were not converted, after he had entreated God on their behalf for 52 years daily. But after his death God brought them into the fold.
A little, lost calf surrounded by fierce lions. A picture that, to those looking on, seemed so hopeless. But that little one was still alive, and where there is yet life there is always profound hope.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


 There is good sensitive and then there is too sensitive, bad sensitive. Often people are both. I’m both. I’m often rightly sensitive to the hurt others may feel but also wrongly sensitive, sensitive to a fault, being much too easily hurt by others or saddened by things that shouldn’t. Though I’ve had ongoing reflection on my over-sensitivity, in recent weeks I’ve deliberately focused the conversation on this topic with some Christian friends who themselves are admittedly overly sensitive as well. There seem to be some trends. People who tend to be hurt or saddened easily also often have a natural inclination towards empathy, towards sensitively seeing the ways that people around them might be hurting and could use encouragement or help. For the sensitive person, there may be an intuitive aching with those who ache or a natural disposition and desire to carry the burdens of others. These are really good things. That's the good kind of sensitivity.

The bad sensitive, the too sensitive, is pretty obvious. There are so many times when words spoken or things done have unintentionally caused my heart to grieve and instead of overlooking or absorbing the insult and deliberately seeking out the good in another, I’ve felt stung, allowing the sadness to linger far too long.

The advice of some might be, ‘Toughen up!’ or, ‘You need a thicker skin.’ But here’s the thing: I don’t want to toughen up or develop calloused, thick skin. I want to keep a soft heart and a tenderness towards pain, whether mine or someone else’s. At the same time, being too easily hurt or quickly saddened can all too naturally be the first step down a path towards resentment or bitterness.

A phone conversation from many months ago comes to mind, the words spoken then still fresh now. In the morning, before this phone call, a close friend of mine had unintentionally done something hurtful to me and my kids. What she said was concrete and legitimately hurtful, and yet on her part entirely unintentional and not sinful. My friend had left our place and my heart was heavy, tears still wet on my face, when the phone rang. Because it was the recognized number of my parents’ house, I answered. My Dad immediately detected sadness in my voice and asked if I was OK. I explained the situation and the hurtful things that had been said. I shared my sadness and even slight anger. And then I waited to hear him, my always-protective Pop, affirm me and validate my hurt feelings. But he did something different. He did something wonderful. He spoke freeing, grace-filled words of truth.

"Elisha, you know she loves you. You know she loves your children. Be OK with the people in your life not being perfect. Just be OK with it. Choose not to be hurt. Choose not to be angry. And just keep on loving her."

What my Dad spoke into my heart that morning is true. There really is a choice when we are hurt or offended. And there is such power and freedom in absorbing the offense and making the choice to pursue love instead of sinking into sadness or bitterness.

There is a time to confront and there is a time to forbear. Scripture actually says a lot about both, and, in certain cases, it no doubt takes sanctified wisdom to know which course is right. But when sin is not involved and the issue is merely that we’ve been hurt or offended, a biblical option is quiet, loving forbearance. In this, there is such freedom and grace.
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. ~ Ephesians 4:2


Maple Syrup Day included time spent with good friends, stacks of syrup-smothered pancakes, tractor-and-wagon rides, farm workers role playing and dressed in authentic apparel, a few mooing cows that made all the city kids laugh in delight, and lots of walking around in the muck that is (almost) Spring. It was a great day!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


There are parts of my Christian identity that I struggle to grasp, while other realities require little effort. A non-struggle has been to see myself as a sinner desperately in need of grace.

Don't misunderstand. Doubtless I don't even come close to comprehending the full ugliness of my sin nor its offense against my Creator. But on a more basic intellectual level, I have never wrestled with a sense that God should accept me because of me, because of my own goodness or merit. My sin looms large and, at least in some small measure, I'm inclined to see the ugliness of it.

Broken, ugly and sinful, desperately in need of redemption is the part that I get.

Beloved daughter of God made breathtakingly beautiful in Christ’s righteousness is the part of my identity that’s more of a struggle to believe. For many Christians, and for many different reasons, a deeply-rooted knowledge and acceptance of God’s love can be difficult to grasp.

This past Valentine's Day there was a thick envelope adorned with pretty stamps and shiny heart stickers awaiting me in the mailbox. Inside this bulky card were three little Valentine's Day cards sent from my Mom to my children. Their three cards were opened, enjoyed, and have since been colored in or chewed upon and have been put to rest in the recycling. My card, however, has been opened and read and saved and tucked inside my Bible, nestled between the pages of Ephesians chapter 2 and 3.

These are the words my Mom wrote inside that card:
Dear Justin and Elisha,
“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power … to grasp how VAST is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:18). The whole passage is amazing – Ephesians 3:14-21! I have been reading it every day in this new year.
We love you and miss you.
Mom and Pop
Since receiving it, my Mom's card has prompted me to read Ephesians 3 over and over again too.

I wonder if the struggle to believe and accept the depth of God’s love for His people, for me, is connected to roots that are too delicate and have yet to grow deeper into Christ. Is it connected to looking in the wrong places for demonstrations of God’s love?

In her card, my Mom was referencing a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote to men and women in the Ephesian church whom he loved. In it, there is a prayer about love that pierces the heart:
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. ~ Ephesians 3
When I struggle to believe that I’m a beloved, beautiful daughter of the living God, maybe it’s because I’m looking in the wrong places to see His love. After such a ready admission of my own sin and guilt, am I somehow still looking inside, to myself, to my own efforts to find His acceptance?

Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday are near, a time of year when people redeemed by blood reflect upon the One whose blood was shed.

The cross, then the resurrection. The shadows of sin past and present may loom large, bringing darkness and doubt. But there is a place to come where sin is forever overshadowed first by the darkest day and then made no more through brilliant Light.

When I doubt the depth of His love, there is a place to come and believe.

The cross. Bloody, and gruesome. Nails hammered into hands and feet. The sacrificial lamb. The place where God's love was forever demonstrated, though it is too great to understand fully.

About Ephesians 3 John Calvin wrote this:
"The love of Christ is held out to us as the subject which ought to occupy our daily and nightly meditations, and in which we ought to be wholly plunged. He who is in possession of this alone has enough."
The cross of our Saviour. The new covenant in His blood. The forever demonstration of God's love. A people, clothed and made beautiful in Christ's righteousness.  And yet I doubt His love? Surely this is enough.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


A couple weeks back we enjoyed a wonderful weekend visit with Grandma Morey from New York. The visit mostly included lots of time playing and reading with Grandma, along with a fun trip to the Royal Ontario Museum.

We love you, Grandma Morey! We miss you!